It's good to read this story before your child chips or knocks out her tooth so that you know the right (and wrong) steps to take.

boy wiggling tooth
Credit: Fancy Photography/Veer

It's sort of a rite of passage for parents: dealing with a chipped or knocked-out tooth. Knowing in advance what to do if a dental emergency arises can minimize permanent damage and make the experience less frightening for your child (and for you!).

One important to-do right now: Keep your dentist's number in your phone. "Any dental injury, regardless of how minor it may appear, should be evaluated by your child's dentist because often there are other injuries that aren't as obvious," says Edward H. Moody, Jr., D.D.S., vice president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and a board certified pediatric dentist in Morristown, Tennessee. "For example, a chipped baby tooth may not seem very serious, but the root of the tooth could also be fractured or the chip may extend so far that there's a risk of infection. Your child's dentist can determine the extent of the damage and suggest proper follow-up care."

Here's a guide to how to handle three common scenarios.

If your child cracks, chips, or breaks a tooth:

  1. Contact your child's dentist right away.
  2. Rinse your child's mouth with water.
  3. Put a cold compress on the face to reduce swelling.
  4. If possible, bring the tooth fragment with you to the dentist.

If a baby tooth is knocked out:

The most important thing to remember: "Never, ever try to replant a baby tooth that's been knocked out," says Lezli Levene Harvell, D.M.D,, a board-certified pediatric dentist in Newark, New Jersey. "Doing so could damage the permanent tooth coming in behind it." Instead, contact your child's dentist right away. He or she can examine your child and take steps to manage pain and prevent infection.

If a permanent tooth is knocked out:

Ideally, you want to replant a knocked out permanent tooth as quickly as possible and seek dental care immediately. "A permanent tooth has the best chance of survival if it's replanted within five minutes," says Dr. Levene Harvell.

  1. Find the tooth and pick it up by the crown (the widest part of the tooth). Avoid touching the root of the tooth.
  2. If a tooth is dirty, gently rinse the tooth in cold water for 10 seconds. Do not scrub it or use soap.
  3. Your best option is to put the tooth back in its socket and have your child bite down gently on a clean gauze, handkerchief, or washcloth.
  4. If you can't replant the tooth, place it in a clean container and keep it moist. Good options -- in this order -- are a tooth-preservation product called Save-A-Tooth, cold milk, saliva, saline solution, water, and saliva. (Dr. Levene Harvell recommends keeping Save-a-Tooth, which can be purchased online, in your first aid kit.)
  5. Seek dental care immediately.

Though you can't prevent every stumble, fall, or sports injury, child-proofing your home and having your child wear a mouth guard when playing sports can go a long way toward avoiding common dental injuries.

Copyright © 2013 Meredith Corporation.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.